The athletes will have to get used to it: the pre-Olympic events, an almost unavoidable and always eagerly awaited passage on the road to the Games, are already almost a thing of the past. They have kept their name – test events – but have lost some of their flavour. The reason is the IOC’s “new standard“. And, in the particular case of the Paris 2024 Games, the organisers’ desire to cut costs.
With less than 500 days to go before the event (D – 476 this Friday 7 April), the OCOG has presented the programme and the broad outlines of its pre-Games test series. It will take place in two stages. A first wave between July and October 2023. Then, after a three-month break to “debrief and analyse“, a second round during the Olympic year, between January and June 2024.
So far, nothing very new. Classic, even. But the nature of the tests planned by the OCOG differs from the usual pattern. The Paris organisers will organise their rehearsals on a medium or even small scale, often without an audience, and in many cases using athletes invited to play the role of extras only.
In detail, the Paris 2024 test events are divided into three categories. Each one has a more or less visible place in the national or international sports calendar.
At the top of the bill are the traditional pre-Olympic events. They will be organised by the national and/or international federations of the disciplines concerned. The OCOG will hold on to them like a first wagon behind the locomotive.
Examples: the Archery World Cup on the esplanade des Invalides in Paris (19-20 August 2023), the Junior Rowing World Championships in Vaires-sur-Marne (2-6 August), the Open Water Swimming World Cup in the Seine, starting from the Alexandre III Bridge (5-6 August – photo above), or the Canoeing World Cup Slalom Final in Vaires-sur-Marne (5-8 October).
In 2024, the future Olympic Aquatic Centre will host a first competition in artistic swimming, diving and water polo (29 April to 8 May).
In all cases, these will be official competitions, with international participation (with the exception of the French Youth Golf Championships on 26 and 27 July in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines), public participation and points for the world ranking.
Second category: test competitions organised by Paris 2024. The OCOG will be in charge. Objective: “To meet a specific need for knowledge about certain sports or venues.”
Best example: a sailing event in the bay of Marseille, scheduled for 9-16 July 2023, with all Olympic disciplines on the programme. Paris 2024 will use the event to test its sports, medical and technological facilities.
Two other competitions for 2023 fall into this second category: an international triathlon and para-triathlon event, from 17 to 20 August, on the Pont Alexandre III in Paris; and an international mountain bike event, on 24 September on the Elancourt hill. The organisers made it clear to the media on Thursday 6 April that the latter event, which is open to the public (3 to 5,000 spectators) but not subject to a fee, will serve as a “global test for the spectator experience“.
Finally, at the bottom of the scale, the so-called “operational” tests. The concept is not common in the Olympic movement. It is resolutely pragmatic and has the advantage of reducing costs considerably. It consists of a long series of “targeted” tests, organised by the Paris 2024 OCOG, behind closed doors or by invitation of a limited number of athletes, sometimes international, but most often national or even local. The priority is to test the delicate transition from one sport to another on sites that will successively host at least two disciplines.
An “operational” test is planned for August 2023 at the Grand Palais, where the glass roof will be installed. Another will be held in June 2024 at the Stade de France. This will allow the flow of athletes to be repeated on a reduced scale.
On the other hand, there are no plans to conduct a test at the Pierre-Mauroy Stadium in Lille, where the preliminary round of basketball and the handball finals are scheduled. However, the OCOG is due to install an air conditioning system there for the duration of the Games. Edouard Donnelly, the OCOG’s director of operations, said: “We will take advantage of the concerts scheduled for this summer in the stadium, in Arena mode, to carry out tests and take temperature and air flow readings“.
Total announced cost of the test events programme: €20 million. Less tasty but unbeatable.